The Aluminist has been in hibernation, but has answered numerous questions and received a few photos of interesting pieces of aluminum. These were neatly filed until an upgrade in my system made a mix-up in my records that I'm still working on.
The Aluminist has mainly featured decorative aluminum of the hammered style, but aluminum has been so widely used that collecting possibilities are endless. Some very modernist furniture made more than 50 years ago, is the choice of some; smaller items such as kitchen tools and utensils are collected by others.And the list goes on.
As you may recall, I corresponded with you a couple of years ago regarding the collection of the Massena Aluminum Historical Association (past emails appended below). Recently, I have learned that we will be losing our display/storage space in the Town of Massena Museum. I have just about 100 hammered aluminum items, as well as many other aluminum items. I was hoping that since our last emails, you might have some thought of a museum, historical society or other that I could donate our hammered items to. I assume that they are not particularly rare or valuable, but do show some variety of manufacturers, designs and types of items. I would like to keep them together if at all possible and preserved (and hopefully displayed). If I am unable to find a place to donate them to, or (less preferable) sell them, I will have to scrap them. I would appreciate it if you had any ideas of any place that would be interested at all in a donation of this collection, or even a few items. Thank you.
What could I say?
Despite ten aluminum shows, two books that followed mine, and numerous articles, and hundreds of collectors hunting aluminum items, we have failed to establish this product of the 30s-50s in its rightful place as an unique craft of our country; one whose roots reach back to the metalworking skills of ancient times. It is a product of the Depression years; began as completely hand made, survived WWll, and entered the industrial age where its quality was reduced until it gradually lost it charm and beauty.
Aluminum is not a precious metal. The quality of the items produced in its final years resembled cheap souvenir items. Those two things have marked it. No one but its collectors remember the artistry, the perfection of its hand work, or its history. The letter below was an earlier one, and gives some background information on the organization.
From Joseph Savoca:
I represent. The Association was started 26 years ago by my father. Massena is the home of the longest continuously operating aluminum smelting plant in the world. A canal and associated hydroelectric power dam were built in 1903, with Alcoa operating here ever since. Additionally, with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and hydroelectric power dam in 1959, Reynolds Metals and General Motors located in Massena. My father wished to preserve the history of these three aluminum industries since they were vital to the employment and economic development of the area. He was able to collect product samples from Alcoa, including wire, rod and bar, cable and cable accessories, company and plant newsletters, employee records, and other memorabilia; ingot and billet slices from Reynolds; and aluminum automobile parts from General Motors, including complete Corvair and Vega engines. Additionally, the Association has collected a variety of consumer products (although not made at Massena) including many Wear-Ever and Kensington and other manufacturers; and even some aluminum items made by machinists at Alcoa in their "spare time" at work. The Association has a declining membership and funds and we are looking to donate our entire collection to the local municipal museum to ensure its continued existence. I am afraid that the museum may accept the collection but dispose of much or all of it. We have never done a rigorous inventory of our collection and the museum may not wish to take on the work necessary to completely catalog it. Therefore, I am attempting to gather as much background information and reference material as possible to help the museum catalog the collection if they choose to accept it. I am hoping that you (or your readers) may be able to offer some advice on procedure or additional information sources concerning the consumer products.
I thank you for your consideration and any advice that you may be able to offer.
There you have it—another worthwhile collection in trouble. It appears there may be some items that that might of interest to some of you, or you may have a helpful suggestion. I wish Mr. Savoca luck in completing his inventory and getting this collection protected. Also well deserved thanks for all he and his group has done toward preserving part of aluminum's history.